Soares Feitosa

Last But One Canto
Variation nº 1, the Doubt
 Translation by Luiz Angélico da Costa*
                                                                                                for Artur Eduardo Benevides,
of long-course and ocean-sea captain
and finder of these "grails".

“........ left blanks in their writings, 
I mean for things they didn't know" 
(Ezra Pound, in  the Canto, XIII) 

“When I learned the answers,
they changed the questions”.
No man can tell the complete story. 
manuscript of the Dead Sea)
Should  a  multitud e of words  go unanswered?     
                                                    (Job, 11, 2)     
Pilate saith unto Him, what  is truth?     
                                 (John, 18, 38)   


                    ¿What else haven't I been able to conceal?           

If I have learned the answers,    
they ask me no questions;    
if they actually ask me,    
I won't be able to answer, for    
the answers were ——    
I can't remember where I've put them away.    
                         An answer,    
                         if a good answer it is, must be    
                         faster than drawing    
                         a weapon: the knife, the club, the cudgel,    
                         the letting-go of the trap, of the stiletto,    
                         of the thorn, or of the casting net for catching    
                         the fish, and stealing    
                         the notion in the air,    
                         because, also, by silence,    
                         a silenced    
                         indignation can be.   
To speak is compulsive:    
challenging the sounds, receiving them back,    
bony-eared, listening "deep-inside",    
to the pulsation of the bells,    
and receiving,    
making the echo to return    
and the words to return, for returning    

                              — talk to oneself, why not?—-  

they guard us from the answers    
never given.      
They say there is a legal customhouse    
of the answers;    
for traveling abroad, the passport    
and a book   
[who knows, couldn'n it be     
the Sand Book, viejo Borges, the Argentinian?]           
                         vast book of extensive,    
                         forgotten annotations;    
                         for that one, the reply, quick,    
                         ready on the tip of the tongue    

                                             - one cannot hesitate -          
                         quicklime that burns in water         

- ¿what shall I say,  what do I vindicate? -          

A fiery answer, if it does exist,    
how dare one voice it    
if his interlucutor is terrible and impatient,    
and seems to make fun of it,    
and knows how to shake    
his head—his staring eyes fixed—    
right and left, his head and his smile,    
while, on your trembling lips,    
your words and answers    
foster fear,    
and are drowned in tears.   

- ¿ who can assure you that h(H)e believed you ? -          
Would you refuse:         
the pair of pliers, the fingernail,        
the exile and the tongs ?!        

                         incendiate, said Loiola...         
¿ How come,          
how can one set fire,         
take your choice: matches, napalm or gasoline ?         
                         Better wet firewood, Bruno,    
                         doesn't catch fire easily;    
                         it moans, and smokes, and weeps,    
                         and perhaps it might've given you:         

To rub two stiks together, to beat a night-long rhythm    
to kindle    
the ritual    
to gather the flame with slight breath and some little sticks    
                         dried up    
                         a lot of time    
                         I need the answer    
                         here, quick, the long-fire big tongue,    
                         broad-tongued chameleon    
                         and the interlocking    
                         now, now, for    
                         soon shall i be the distant memory of a man,    
                         nothing but the memory of one who    
                         has died.    

Have I been the accomplice of some tardiness,    
                         the fool of some haste    
                         — and the answer —    
                         where the answer ?     
                             In the haystack,  
                             they said,  
                             among the needles,  
                             dried-up straw,  
                             instant-fire heart:  
                             whitewash, mortar, caustic, chalice,  
                             shut up,  
                             to keep quiet— 
                             So I did keep quiet. 
For so many times,  
the best answer  
is in John,  
chapter 18,  
versicle 38,  
perhaps  it's really better to have the certainty 

¿ ....... ? 
of the questioned-doubt. 
————————» he became silent «———————— 
Or, worried about it 
(after all, is was in fact an assassination) 
John may have forgotten to 
write it down. 
out of absolute mercy, 
John saved us 
(John or He) 
from the danger of 
                         His lordship the procurator
                         some time after the lavabo scene
                         was replaced by Marcellus,
                         because no one has ever escaped being
                         replaced, procurators included
The gods too were replaced    
and the lions were generously fed.
An obscure poem, the one of “J”, the Jahvist,
the greatest one of all of them, prevailedand
has been dismissing all the other gods and reducing    
all the other poems to ordinary literature.
Both the gods and the poems of these lands, 
begining on the october 12 1492, "after Him", 
were dismissed, 
ruled out,
all of them.
Some of those old gods, banished,
were note really that bad, they say,
some ruled over sunshine and rain,
others enjoyed human sacrifices,
but that hasn't made much diference:
we have improved the techniques of killing
most successfully—  in his name
His lordship the Procurator (the one of the question)    
even endeavored to alter history    
and he doesn't seem to have been a very bad person:    
He even tried hard—    
he's mentioned by name,    
not sorrowfully at all, in a most beautiful prayer    
a milion times every day. 

And if his lordship the procurator told
nobody what "He had heard"
(qwho knows, some babblings talk only, after all
the accused had suffered almost nothing
to what he still had to undergo,
but must have been
quite frightened
at the questioning
and clamor)
And if He, the accused, ever responded    
in very low tones,    
there's no trustworthy register    
of his answer    
having been heard.    
If he heard it,     
his lordship the procurator     
didn't tell     
and if he did tell,     
they have lost it,     
they have stolen it out,     
they have lost,
we have lost,     
we have lost it all. 
Salvador - BA, Brazil, late nigth, 09.07.95 
* Luiz Angélico Costa
Universidade Federal da Bahia, Brazil
October, 1995